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Old 04-26-2009, 02:08 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Human-Powered Everything



This past Wednesday (EARTHDAY, 2009) I was at the University in Whitewater, Wisconsin.

After attending the keynote speech on Electric Vehicles, I headed out to the parking lot to show off my Electro-Metro, along with Insight, Prius, and NEV owners.

One of the break-out sessions on the program that caught my eye, but I could not attend, as I was busy at the car show, was about human power.

The speaker would be talking about using human power to run household appliances, creating electricity, and more.

One of the people later in the day looking at my car was a woman carrying a large box of books. On the side, it said "Human Power".

Sure enough, she was the author speaking at the breakout session. I didn't have enough money on me right then to buy a book right off her, but I did get to page through a copy. It looked really good.

I just browsed through the web site for the book. I thought it was very interesting. You might too.

The Human Powered Home - Choosing Muscles Over Motors

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Old 04-26-2009, 07:35 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Cool!

I love human power But one must take care in understanding human efficiency.... For you efficiency aficionados, a human in a cycling situation is at most ~25% efficient - that's an extremely fit, trained human... That's before mechanical losses

Human power for the developed market, I feel is most suitable in local transport and potentially niche market applications. That is, a human powered home appliances could be costly from a power stand point. Arguably, you would be more fit, but quality of life would likely suffer (I hate stationary cycling, for example - I really enjoy moving through my world ).

Human Power in emerging markets - especially where in areas without a reliable (if any) source of electrical power are amazing. I strongly support enablers. Money isn't really an enabler (ask a sub Saharan country in turmoil) when compared to tools that can power devices like machinery, pumps, small electrical generators, medical devices etc. etc. I saw a human powered rice thresher at Stanford's extreme affordability presentation day - that's exactly the sort of thing I'm thinking of

So that went a bit off topic, but that's me
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Old 04-26-2009, 07:53 PM   #3 (permalink)
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bennelson -

Sounds like a corollary-solution to self-ecomodding?

For a given household gizmo, I'd like to see a breakdown of how much pedaling I'd need to do. For instance, to make some toast, how much pedaling at what effort?

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Old 04-26-2009, 08:00 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Wow, that's great. I once used a human-powered lathe
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Old 04-26-2009, 08:01 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cfg83 View Post
For a given household gizmo, I'd like to see a breakdown of how much pedaling I'd need to do. For instance, to make some toast, how much pedaling at what effort?
Do you have a KillaWatt? If not, next time I make toast I'll measure how much power is consumed

50-75Watts is a fairly sustainable (human fatigue wise) pace on a bike.... But, you're very inefficient at that particular moment as toast is typically a breakfast item, indicating you probably don't have much in the way of readily accessible energy. So you're even less efficient as your body needs to take more steps to convert chemical energy stores into usable energy

(better add a second slice )
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Old 04-26-2009, 08:32 PM   #6 (permalink)
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trebuchet03 -

Quote:
Originally Posted by trebuchet03 View Post
Do you have a KillaWatt? If not, next time I make toast I'll measure how much power is consumed

50-75Watts is a fairly sustainable (human fatigue wise) pace on a bike.... But, you're very inefficient at that particular moment as toast is typically a breakfast item, indicating you probably don't have much in the way of readily accessible energy. So you're even less efficient as your body needs to take more steps to convert chemical energy stores into usable energy

(better add a second slice )
I have a KillaWatt. In the never-ending quest to explore the frontiers of scientific knowledge, I just toasted an English Muffin using a DeLonghi "Alfredo" toaster oven. It consumed 0.09 KWH. The muffin was delicious.

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Old 04-26-2009, 09:02 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Yeah, I'm not saying that human power is the most efficient thing out there. But wherever you go, there you are, so human power is great for camping, remote locations, rural areas without grid power etc.

Also, if you are just "wasting" energy, such as riding an exercise bike at the gym, why not generate energy while you are at it.

I also believe that doing something yourself makes you appreciate things much more. If you have ever ran a light bulb off an exercise bike, you know what it takes to power, and are more likely to turn off the lights when you leave a room.

Ever hand-crank your own ice-cream? It's the best tasting ice-cream EVER because of the work you put into it.

One of the exerpts of the book on the web page was an essay on forced human power, including the old treadmills in England they used to make prisons run. It was interesting.
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Old 04-26-2009, 09:15 PM   #8 (permalink)
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At the other extreme, there are quite a number of electric appliances that actually do a worse job than their human-powered replacements: can-openers and pencil sharpeners, for instance. Or electric guitars :-)
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Old 04-26-2009, 11:20 PM   #9 (permalink)
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We posed this question in Aircraft design class, would making every passenger on a 737 contribute some pedal power make the jet more efficient.

turns out we would have to carry even more weight to carry water to keep everyone hydrated... this lowers efficiency

the human power didn't even make up for the added weight of water/food
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Old 04-27-2009, 01:46 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tourigjm View Post
turns out we would have to carry even more weight to carry water to keep everyone hydrated... this lowers efficiency
You need to apply a bit of creative thinking. The passengers exhale water into the air, no? And it's really cold outside at cruising altitude, so you pass the cabin air through an external condenser, which dehumidifies the air & recycles drinking water...

Now as for food, given that on average a sizeable fraction of the passengers could stand to lose some weight, extra feeding's not really needed. Indeed, you need to factor in the increased aircraft efficiency because of the passengers' weight loss during the flight :-)

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